Depression Starts in the Bowels

Canadian researchers from McMaster University have demonstrated for the first time the effect of intestinal microflora on the chemical processes in the brain that govern the behavior and mood. Human bowels are inhabited by billions of bacteria that perform various functions and are important for sustaining life: they accumulate energy from food, protect against infections, and deliver nourishment to the cells of the intestine. Any disbalance can lead to serious consequences.


Theoretically, we can assume that the mood of a person with impaired intestinal microflora may be flawed by knowing this fact by itself and having the unpleasant sensations associated with it. But with laboratory mice the psychological aspect cannot be of great importance. Nevertheless, the researchers have observed that the effect of the antibiotic on a healthy microflora of bowels leads to changes in the behavior of mice! They become less cautious and prudent, and have elevated level of anxiety. These changes are accompanied by an increased amount of neurotrophic factor in the brain that is associated with depression and anxiety. Once the antibiotic is terminated and the intestinal microflora recovers, the chemical processes in one’s brain also come back to the normal level, as well as behavior.

To confirm that it is the bacteria that play a decisive role, the researchers used the mice which did not have enough intestinal bacteria and provided them with a microflora of mice with different “tempers”. It was discovered that when genetically passive mice received the microflora of more active individuals, they themselves became much more active and brave. Conversely, the mice which were more active by nature, became lazy and less mobile after the introduction of the microflora of their slow and passive relatives.

Of course, the behavior is determined by many factors, but in cases of its frustration (perhaps up to autism (!), the scientists recommend that eveyone pay attention to the balance of intestinal microflora. However, the bacterial factor in the behavior needs further study.

Source of the image: Photl.

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